Our tribute to this popular Malian dish offers sweet onions and bell peppers caramelized in a light vinegar-mustard sauce and served traditionally over hand-cut, deep-fried potatoes. The uniqueness of the frites is their method: salting the freshly cut potatoes extrudes their water content and provides flavorful fries that are tender on the inside and crispy on the outside.
For the Onion Sauce:
3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1½ cups (8 ounces) tri-colored sweet peppers, seeded and julienned
3 cups thinly sliced sweet onion
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
4½ teaspoons granulated chicken bouillon
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1½ tablespoons white Modena vinegar
½ cup water
1½ tablespoon fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley or fresh cilantro, chopped
For the Hand-cut Frites:
2½ pounds large baking russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch matchsticks
1 tablespoon salt
Oil for frying
Throughout history, the sixteen countries that now comprise the region known as West Africa have as tribes always interacted and traded that which they farmed, gathered, hunted, or created from those methods. As the British, French, and Portuguese explorers discovered and claimed these sixteen countries for their sovereign European nations, they likewise influenced the indigenous cuisine by bringing items that hadn’t previously existed there such as tomatoes, corn, plantains, chili and sweet peppers, peanuts, and cassava root. Further continuing on their journeys, explorers carried these and many African specialties like black-eyed peas and okra to the New World. In the meantime, the European nations began to colonize and establish boundaries that often mixed and separated tribes to the degree that the cuisine intermingled. Thus, the Senegalese prepare and serve many of the same dishes that the Ghanaians, Malians, Gambians, and Côte d’Ivoirians likewise prepare and serve, each with a legitimate claim to their origins. Tomatoes, onions, and peppers offer the three enhancing ingredients in most dishes. Nearly all the countries offer groundnut stew, known as maafe, mafé, or sauce d’arachide, which originated with the Malian Bambara people. Meat cooked with peanut butter, cabbage, onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables and spices and commonly served with rice or Ghanaian Fufu, onion sauce and frites (Senegalese Yassa), and fried plantains (Ghanaian Kelewele or Côte d’Ivoirian Aloko). Those who will partake of the food wash together then sit around the basin, using the fingers of their right “rice” hand to scoop and eat. Throughout the centuries, West Africa has held tightly to its traditional methods of cooking, eating, and preparing food.
To Prepare the Onion Sauce:
In a skillet set over medium heat, sauté the minced garlic in the olive oil for 1 minute. Toss in the pepper slices, onion slices, brown sugar, and chicken bouillon. Sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables have caramelized. Stir in the Dijon mustard, vinegar, and water. Allow the mixture to cook for about 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve over warm frites on individual plates. Garnish with some additional fresh parsley or cilantro, if desired.
To Prepare the Hand-cut Frites:
Place the matchstick potatoes in a large bowl. Rub the salt into the potatoes. Allow the potatoes to sit for about 10 minutes in order to render their moisture. Drain off the liquid. Wrap the potatoes in a dry kitchen towel to remove any excess moisture. It is very important that the potatoes are dry before putting them in the hot oil.
In a deep frying pan or fryer, heat oil (at least 3 inches deep) to 325°F. Once the oil has heated to temperature, fry the potatoes, working in batches if necessary, for 8 minutes. Using a mesh skimmer, or spider, remove the fried potatoes to a paper-towel-lined plate. Increase the temperature of the oil to 360°F (the oil temperature will have dropped to about 270°F at the end of the first frying). Place the fried potatoes back into the oil and fry until golden and crisp, about 1 to 1½ minutes. Lift the frites back to the paper-towel-lined plate to absorb any excess oil. Do not add extra salt.
Recipe Created and Stylized by R. Shannon Mock
and Brontë E. Mock
©Be the Beautiful Life All Rights Reserved